According to Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, the European Union does not wish to allow the export of Astrazeneca vaccine until the company fulfills its obligations to the European Union countries. “We will make sure everything stays in Europe so that the company fulfills its obligations,” Britton said Friday at a news conference that was broadcast online in Spain. The export control mechanism that was tightened this week is the tool for that.
Britton said Astrazeneca has pledged 120 million doses of the Coronavirus vaccine to the European Union in the first quarter. But the European Union is receiving only 30 million doses. “We are now in discussions with the company to understand what happened,” the commissioner added.
At the same time, there are strict rules in place to monitor what leaves the continent. “We have this tool, which Commission President (Ursula von der Leyen) presented again yesterday to make sure that we control the banks and that we do not have banks, if I may say so.
Britton clarified, however, that there are no problems with the other manufacturers. Biontech / Pfizer and Moderna even exceeded their commitments to the European Union.
The European Union Commission introduced export controls on February 1 and tightened these controls this week with the aim of ensuring that manufacturers supply the EU fairly. This makes export ban possible. For fear of countermeasures, they should only be imposed in emergency situations.
Against the backdrop of a row between the European Union and Astrazeneca, the discovery of 29 million doses of the vaccine at a bottling plant in Italy on Wednesday caused confusion. Astrazeneca on Wednesday rejected media reports that the vaccine it found would be exported to the UK. Thus, 13 million doses are intended for the international Covax vaccination initiative, and the remaining 16 million for the European Union.
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The representative of the European Union in Brussels told Agence France-Presse: “We doubted that AstraZenka has more production capacity in Europe than it has announced.” So the European Union Commissioner for Industry Breton asked the Italian authorities to inspect the plant at Anagni near Rome. He did not provide any information on the destination of the vaccine doses there.
Factory in Asia not certified for EU production
There was also uncertainty about the origin of the vaccine packed in Italy. The representative of the European Union said: “We now have to check whether the active ingredient in these vaccines has been manufactured in the European Union in EMA approved facilities.” Astrazenca later stated that at least 13 million doses of Covax vaccine had not been produced in the European Union.
Astrazeneca also produces in plants in Asia that are not yet approved for European Union production. In the dispute over delivery delays, focus was recently placed on one of the company’s production facilities in Leiden, the Netherlands. So far, production for the European Union has not been allowed there because no similar permit has been applied for.
The European Union has been arguing with Astrazeneca for months because the company has been providing a much less coronavirus vaccine than agreed with European Union countries. So the commission greatly expanded its export ban options on Wednesday. Brussels accuses AstraZenka of favoring other countries, especially Great Britain, at the expense of the European Union.
UNHCR deputy Valdes Dombrowskis once again highlighted AstraZeneca’s failures on Wednesday. Initially, the company promised 120 million cans in the first quarter of 2021. “Now they are promising to deliver 30 million boxes, but they are not even close to that number today.” According to European Union data, the company has so far delivered 19 million packages. (Reuters / AFP)